For those of you who like a good story, especially if it involves the West, I have to share this rather bizarre, but true tale of the early 20th century. It all happened about 30 minutes from from Casa Wallace in the little border town of Naco, Arizona along with its counterpart, Naco, Sonora on the other side of the line.
The year was 1929. It was before the big crash in October, but things weren't so great in Mexico in the spring of that year. The people were fed up with heavy taxation, corruption, and the government in general. Hmmm...has a familiar ring to it already. Well, some rebel forces organized and began giving the Mexican army a hard time. Naco, Sonora was a pretty rough place with lots of saloons and gambling establishments, so more government intervention in their way of life wasn't welcome. The rebels and the army dug in around Naco, Sonora and began to have daily skirmishes. Since there wasn't much happening in Naco, Arizona, which is still true to this day, residents brought out chairs to watch the bullets fly between the Mexican army and the rebel forces for entertainment. Every once in awhile, a stray bullet would come across the U.S. border and send the spectators for cover. In general the Mexicans didn't want the rebellion to get out of hand and have the U.S. Army come in to settle the matter. So it remained a fairly orderly rebellion as rebellions go.
As time went on more gawkers gathered from Bisbee and outlying areas, sitting in wagons, makeshift benches, or vehicles. One of these folks was Patrick Murphy, a pilot with a bi-wing plane sitting idle. Being a good Irishman, he had a few whiskeys in Bisbee and decided to go down to Naco and offer his services as a bomber pilot to the poor under-equipped rebels. He also offered to make some custom bombs and make a run at routing the army. It was all quickly arranged with the rebels who promised some significant pesos for his services.
Murphy went to work assembling homemade bombs with dynamite, nails, scrap iron, and bolts. He stuffed them into old suitcases and iron pipes.On March 31 and April 1, he made two attempts at bombing the army, both of which failed since the bombs didn't explode. On his third attempt, he flew low over the town of Naco, Sonora and let the third load fall. Unfortunately, it hit the customs house and sprayed shrapnel toward the U.S. audience. Undaunted, the pilot hastily flew back to his hangar and made four more bombs. He was getting better, or so it seemed.
He continued his bombing raids and on April 6 he made his most magnificent strike. He managed to kill two Mexican soldiers in a trench and then things really went south or rather north. Murphy grossly miscalculated and continued his raid on Naco, Arizona. He managed to bomb a garage, broke the windows out of the Naco Pharmacy, wrecked a touring car, damaged the Phelps Dodge Mercantile, and the U.S. Post Office. The pilot who sensed he might be in trouble with the U.S. government, parked his plane and slipped into Mexico. The U.S. Army came out and immediately disabled the plane, while Gen. Topete of the rebel forces promised the U.S. there wouldn't be any more bombings.
Now, lest you think Patrick Murphy ended up in Acapulco sipping drinks with umbrellas in them, here's the end of the tale. Mr. Murphy crept back into the U.S. on April 30 when he determined that facing American government officials was eminently wiser than facing a Mexican firing squad. The Mexican troops had by then squashed the rebellion and Murphy was persona non gratis to the Mexican government. He was arrested once back across the border and carted off to the Tucson jail. He wasn't ever prosecuted and was eventually released. And no, he never did get paid for his aerial antics either. But he may go down as one of the worst bombers in history and as the only pilot to bomb the U.S. mainland from the air. His exploits have been immortalized in song entitled "The Bombing of Naco" by Dolan Ellis, Arizona's official balladeer. So there you go, another strange tale from Cochise County, the Land of Legends!